HONOLULU -- In East Asia today, a line is gradually being drawn in the water, starting in the sea between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, and running south through the East China Sea and the Taiwan Strait into the South China Sea.

East of this line are the United States, which has started streamlining its military forces in Asia; Japan, which is shedding the pacifist cocoon in which it wrapped itself after World War II; and Taiwan, with which the U.S. has been quietly expanding military connections.

West of the line are China, swiftly emerging as a military, economic, and political power, and its ally, poverty-stricken but militarily dangerous North Korea. Both want the U.S. to withdraw its forces and influence from Asia.